How much does foodborne illness cost the U.S.?

Foodborne illness costs some states more than $350 per resident every year, according to a new study in the Journal of Food Protection.

The study, led by OARDC scientist Robert Scharff of the College of Education and Human Ecology, also provides an updated estimate of the total national cost of foodborne illness — up to $93.2 billion a year, an increase from $77.7 billion in 2012.

The economic analysis is the first peer-reviewed study that provides comprehensive estimates of costs borne by individual states as a result of specific foodborne illnesses. It was designed, Scharff said, to offer public health authorities localized information to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of food safety education efforts and other interventions.

“It will give policymakers a tool to determine whether a particular intervention they’re using makes sense,” he said. “It can also be used to determine what are the biggest food safety problems in a state and how to prioritize resources accordingly.”

“(The study) can be used to determine the biggest food safety problems in a state and how to prioritize resources accordingly.”—Robert Scharff

93.2 billion reasons to be cost-effectively vigilant

  • Nationally, Scharff calculated the total cost of foodborne illness to be $55.5 billion to $93.2 billion.
  • In Ohio, the average cost per case of foodborne illness ranged from $1,039 to $1,666, or $156 to $250 per resident every year.
  • In April, a botulism outbreak in Lancaster, Ohio, killed one person and sickened several dozen. Health officials linked it to home-canned potatoes used in a potato salad for a church potluck dinner.
  • To contact the scientist: Robert Scharff at

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